By Toby Lewis, CEO of Live Group (pictured)
Events have been in a holding pattern of regression. As a result, the industry finds itself at least a decade behind the innovations of similar sectors.
At face value it seems unfair to compare the events industry to that of TV, film or music. But we share the same goals: to engage, to inspire, to entertain.
Television and cinema embraced the digital revolution. Today, viewers have myriad options at their disposal when deciding how, when and where they engage with their content.
The same can be said for music, which embraced the rise of streaming. The result of this multichannel approach not only benefitted the new formats, but the old ones too, with vinyl outpacing CD sales earlier this year (how this relates to meetings and events, I will expand upon later).
Out with the old.
How does the pace of innovation in the events industry compare? Of course, it’s the same old story, operating within our limited scope and creative vision: registration, plenary, networking break, rinse and repeat. Venues first, content on the back-burner, and designed predominantly for extroverts, discouraging participation from most of the potential audience.
The disruption of Covid-19 has been a shock to the system for sure, but I believe a necessary one. Without it, I feared that the events industry was not only falling behind other industries but moving backwards each time we received a brief from a client, practically the same as the year prior. This regression was going to leave the industry exposed to both accessibility considerations and sustainability disruption.
As far back as I can remember the accessibility and sustainability of events have been top of the agenda at Live Group, and our latest five-year plan was already tackling these issues with a new suite of products. When Covid-19 hit, we were in a confident position and ready for the sea change.
Boris Johnson’s recent announcement that events and conferences will not be returning in October, or indeed for the foreseeable future, is clearly alarming. This prolonged uncertainty will now solidify a permanent change in our industry where going back to the good old days in simply not an option. It’s time to introduce a new approach, one which will embrace this permanent change and force us to play catch-up with our counterpart industries: Events 2.0.
In with the new.
The Events 2.0 framework differs from the previous, worn-out model in a few key areas.
2.0 events are planned with a content-first mindset, identifying objectives, audience type, deliverables and measurement, and building the optimal approach from there. This approach will help you navigate the multitude of options that are now at your disposal which enable you to communicate to a much wider audience, over a longer period of time, with far greater content.
Events for all.
Traditional event audiences can be broadly split into three groups: those who love attending events, those who don’t like attending events, and those who can be convinced either way. A key pillar of Events 2.0 is accessibility, allowing you to cater for multiple personality types and learning behaviours.
So if you love events and want to shake hands, network and connect with a wide group of people, you can.
If you are indifferent to large groups and wish to network at a smaller venue with a select audience, perhaps colleagues or friends, you can.
If you find the thought of engaging with groups of any size uncomfortable and wish to engage in a controlled environment, you can do that too.
All of the above can be achieved within the Events 2.0 format without a compromised experience for anybody.
Greener and greater.
Pre-Covid, I was growing more uncomfortable with how unsustainable live events were becoming, requiring everybody to travel to a single destination and use overnight accommodation. Add in the footprint of all the food and beverages, and the temporary structures typical of a live event, and I felt the industry was in the sights of any credible environmentalist.
For the past six months the advancements made in our understanding of virtual environments, and the comfort of delegates to engage within them, has had an extraordinary effect on the reduction of our footprint as a by-product. 2.0 events, and the way they embrace virtual, hybrid and in-person connections, will only go on to enhance this by-product.
We can now stop and consider which events really require a physical element, and which might be more suited to a different structure.
For example, content-driven events, based around keynotes and panel sessions, are more suited to a digital delivery, thus cutting down our carbon footprint.
If the focus of the event is sales and networking, there should be a push for a physical setting. And just like vinyl outpacing CD sales, I believe the value in smaller, more meaningful face-to-face sessions will increase dramatically. Let’s call it like it is and run these events with pure networking at their core.
The definition of Events 1.0 became the ability to create an ever-more immersive environment, attempting to attract increasingly disillusion audiences despite many budgets decreasing year-on-year.
In stark contrast, Events 2.0 enables us to redefine what the industry is all about. By embracing this new approach, we can enable our clients to focus on their core objectives, audience types, highlighting excellent content, and most importantly, achieving a tangible measurement of success which events have struggled to achieve previously.
Personally, while I am saddened by the experiences of so many of our colleagues who have suffered over the last six months, I am excited and energised, more so than I have been in decades, that we now have this opportunity to embrace Events 2.0, with the creativity and boldness that I know the industry has at its core.